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Hedgehogs of Doom

On the train on my way back from Canterbury today, I was reading The Tempest, as one does when one has assigned it to one's students for the week. I was struck by the plague of hedgehogs with which Caliban is afflicted. They're Prospero's fault.

PROSPERO. For this, be sure, to-night thou shalt have cramps,
Side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up; urchins
Shall, for that vast of night that they may work,
All exercise on thee; thou shalt be pinch'd
As thick as honeycomb, each pinch more stinging
Than bees that made 'em.

And indeed, Caliban does later suffer.

CALIBAN. All the infections that the sun sucks up
From bogs, fens, flats, on Prosper fall, and make him
By inch-meal a disease! His spirits hear me,
And yet I needs must curse. But they'll nor pinch,
Fright me with urchin-shows, pitch me i' th' mire,
Nor lead me, like a firebrand, in the dark
Out of my way, unless he bid 'em; but
For every trifle are they set upon me;
Sometime like apes that mow and chatter at me,
And after bite me; then like hedgehogs which
Lie tumbling in my barefoot way, and mount
Their pricks at my footfall; sometime am I
All wound with adders, who with cloven tongues
Do hiss me into madness.

The footnote in the edition I was reading helpfully glossed "urchin" as "goblins disguised as hedgehogs". But same difference, really, for the purpose of perceiving doomish hedgehogs.

This reminds me of the Hedgehog of the Destruction of Ninevah, which I mentioned, but did not show, in my Eastercon talk. I know that a number of you have been curious.

A few years ago, C. and I were visiting Amiens. I realized that I would own the copyright on all the photos I took, which proved a real incentive for me to take a whole lot of them. I don't know if I noticed the hedgehog at the time, but noting it in retrospect, I sent it to oursin, who aggregates hedgehogs. ("Collect" may be too formal a verb for it.)

Curious as to what an image of a hedgehog was doing, hanging out on the west portal of the cathedral, I looked it up before sending it. Which is how I learned about the Hedgehog of the Destruction of Ninevah. (See it here in context with the signs of the zodiac and labors of the months.)

See also An article on the hedgehog.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 27th, 2009 10:10 pm (UTC)
That is AWESOME. I too am a fan of hedgehogs, and I love it that one has infiltrated the Bible and a cathedral :)
Apr. 27th, 2009 10:49 pm (UTC)
I used my phone to look it up during your lecture because I was sufficiently curious. Also sufficiently nerdy. I was very amused.
Apr. 27th, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
Sounds like an STD.
Apr. 28th, 2009 12:50 am (UTC)
Baby hedgehogs are called "hoglets." Trufax.
Apr. 28th, 2009 07:51 am (UTC)
At the Academy cinema in Oxford St, long gone, they used to show Eastern European animated shorts alongside the main arthouse feature, and there was one (which seemed to come up regularly) about a village which has a plague of snakes, then they get hedgehogs to eat the snakes, then they have a plague of hedgehogs, then they get ?foxes to eat the hedgehogs, then they have a plague of them, then they get hunters, who eat them out of house and home - eventually they flood the village, and when the water drains -- snakes again!

Edited at 2009-04-28 07:51 am (UTC)
Apr. 28th, 2009 09:08 am (UTC)
Prospero is a creepy bastard and literary proof of the corruption of power.
Apr. 28th, 2009 11:57 am (UTC)
Thank you. I had forgotten about the hedgehog (brain like a sieve) but I'm very pleased to be reminded :)
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )